Filling the skills shortages in our regions – how overstayers can help
One of the more positive signs in the Immigration Law area of late has been for Essential Skills Work Visa holders who had previously been designated as ‘low-skilled’. Those previously classified under ANZSCO as Skill Level 4 or 5 now have the opportunity to obtain three-year work visas rather than 12 or 6 months as was the case previously, provided they earn over $25.50 per hour. This has helped in filling the skills shortages in our regions and in particular our agricultural regions like the Taranaki.
Skills Shortages in the Taranaki
This positive trend has been highlighted in an article in the Taranaki Daily News. In the Taranaki region more farm workers can take advantage of three year work visas rather than the previous case where workers would obtain one year work visas for three years then be subject to a stand down period.
As noted in the article itself:
Up until the change, it was difficult to get a three-year visa for anyone lower than a farm manager or 2IC, with many others who were good workers classified as ‘low skilled’ and only eligible for one year visas.
The article itself highlights a crisis in employment in the agricultural sector in the regions. Dairy New Zealand for example has 1000 vacancies which are not being filled by people on working holiday visas.
A modest proposal
It is clear that employers in our regions like the Taranaki are crying out for new workers. For the foreseeable future staff will not be able to be flown in from overseas nor will there be any people on working holiday visas available to do their ‘OE’ or gap year in New Zealand.
At the same time there is currently estimated that there are 10,000 people in New Zealand living unlawfully.
A common sense approach would be to allow those here unlawfully to apply for a special work visa to allow them to assist in these areas of skills shortage. This will help employers struggling to find suitable labour and also allow those who are unlawful a pathway to lawfulness. A win-win situation.
Unprecedented times require unprecedented responses. Providing long time overstayers with this solution is a win-win. It allows employers to get employees in areas of shortage.
For otherwise law-abiding overstayers it allows them the opportunity to get their lives back on track. Sometimes overstayers, despite the stigma attached to being an overstayer, find themselves in this position through no fault of theirs. But something unfortunate has happened to put them in that position. Our borders are closed.
Why not use people that are here already? One would have thought this is a commonsense approach.
A pathway to residence
As acknowledged in the article being able to obtain a three year work visa sets many more people up on a pathway to residence under Skilled Migrant Category.
Another common sense approach would be to add those who qualify under the Regional Skills Shortage List – such as agricultural workers in the Taranaki region a pathway under the Work to Residence visa category for Residency in New Zealand along the lines of the existing one for Long Term Skills Shortage.
Allowing more people to benefit from three year work visas and a pathway to residence can only be a positive, particularly for regions like Taranaki and sectors like the agricultural sector suffering from chronic vacancies.